A law that took effect July 1, 2011, allows Virginia (VA) motorcycle, moped and bike riders to run red lights in certain situations. Normally, clists are restricted to following the same rules of the road as drivers are but with this new bill, effective July 1, bike riders can ride threw red lights when safe.
Many traffic lights have a wire in the road that detects a vehicle’s presence by weight. When enough weight cross the wire, the light changes. But too frequently, two-wheel vehicles -including motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles – end up trapped at red lights because they aren’t heavy enough to trip the traffic signal to change to green until a car pulls up.
Under the new law, motorcycles, bikes and mopeds must come to a complete stop and wait 120 seconds or two cycles of the light. As long as there is no oncoming traffic, two-wheeled vehicles may proceed through the light. This new law makes some sense, but as a Virginia injury lawyer who has represented victims of bike-car wrecks, it makes me a little uneasy to allow bike riders to ride through a red light. It would not be surprising to see car-bike accidents increase because of this new law. I can see some bikers sitting in traffic at a red light and running it, by taking advantage of their size and this new law.
It’s good to see Virginia lawmakers fighting for the rights of bicyclists, especially after a passing distance safety initiative failed to advance out of a subcommittee this year. Still, bike riders have a long way to go before they’re completely safe on the road.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.